Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts

Appellate Court Opinions

Format: 01/21/2019
Format: 01/21/2019
Shawn T. Slaughter v. Grover T. Mills Et Al.
E2017-02288-COA-R3-CV

This matter involves Hamilton County’s attempt to recover funds it paid, through its on-the- job injury program, on behalf of one of its employees, Shawn T. Slaughter. Mr. Slaughter was injured while riding in a County vehicle when that vehicle collided with another vehicle; he filed suit against the drivers and the County. Prior to trial, Mr. Slaughter settled with one of the defendant drivers. After trial, having been found not atfault by the jury, the County attempted to assert a lien against settlement. The trial court held that the County does not have a contractual or statutory basis for a lien against Mr. Slaughter’s settlement. It further held that, because Mr. Slaughter was not made whole by his settlement, the County is not entitled to subrogation. The County filed a motion for reconsideration and requested a ruling on its asserted constitutional basis for recovery. The court denied the County’s motion. The County appeals. We affirm

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 12/19/18
James McDonald Shea Brown Jr. v. John F. Weaver
E2018-00783-COA-R3-CV

Appellant, a beneficiary under the will of Decedent, brought this action in 2017 to recover funds that Appellee allegedly improperly safeguarded when he served as conservator for Decedent in 1980. On Appellee’s motion to dismiss, the trial court granted the motion finding that the complaint failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. The trial court also found that any cause of action arising from Appellee’s conduct as conservator was barred by the statute of limitations. Appellant then filed a motion to reconsider. Following a hearing, the trial court denied Appellant’s motion finding that Appellant’s action was barred by the statute of limitations. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Knox County Court of Appeals 12/19/18
In Re Brianna B.
M2017-02436-COA-R3-PT

This action involves a termination petition filed by the father and stepmother of two minor children in an attempt to terminate the biological mother’s parental rights. Following a bench trial, the court found that clear and convincing evidence existed to support the statutory grounds of abandonment for failure to support and to visit and failure to manifest an ability and willingness to personally assume responsibility for the children. The court further found that termination was in the best interest of the children. We vacate the order of termination and remand for further proceedings. 

Maury County Court of Appeals 12/19/18
Jeffrey Heatley, Et Al. v. David G. Gaither, Et Al.
M2018-00461-COA-R3-CV

Plaintiffs filed suit against the owners of a neighboring property, claiming that wastewater from the neighbors’ septic system was pooling onto the plaintiffs’ property. The defendants moved for summary judgment on two grounds: (1) their use of the septic system was authorized by an implied easement from the previous common ownership of the two properties; and (2) they did not breach any duty to the plaintiffs because they were unaware that the septic tank existed. In response, the plaintiffs argued that, after the septic tank’s discovery, the defendants continued to use it even though it was failing. The plaintiffs also moved to amend their complaint to add claims for gross negligence, nuisance, and continuing trespass. The trial court granted summary judgment for the defendants on all claims and denied the motion to amend the complaint. On appeal, we affirm the grant of summary judgment on trespass but reverse the grant of summary judgment on negligence. In light of our decision on the summary judgment motion, we also vacate the denial of the motion to amend the complaint. 

Putnam County Court of Appeals 12/19/18
In Re: Lesley A.
E2018-00594-COA-R3-PT

Mother appeals the trial court’s determination that her parental rights to her daughter should be terminated on the grounds of substantial noncompliance with the permanency plans, abandonment by failure to provide a suitable home, and persistence of conditions. Having concluded that clear and convincing evidence supports the trial court’s decisions regarding grounds as well as its determination that termination is in the best interest of the child, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Roane County Court of Appeals 12/18/18
State of Tennessee v. Willie Morgan
W2018-00828-CCA-R3-CD

Defendant, Willie Morgan, appeals from the trial court’s dismissal of his “Petition for Reduction of Sentence.” The trial court found that the petition was untimely under Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 35. Upon our review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/18/18
State of Tennessee v. Audrey Downs
W2018-00391-CCA-R3-CD

The Appellant, Audrey Downs, appeals the Shelby County Criminal Court’s summary dismissal of his petition requesting DNA analysis of evidence pursuant to the Post-Conviction DNA Analysis Act of 2001. Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, the judgment of the trial court is reversed, and the case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/18/18
Laxmi Hospitality Group, LLC v. Rajesh Narayan
M2018-00450-COA-R3-CV

A company that loaned $100,000 to two individuals filed a complaint to collect the amount due. One defendant filed for bankruptcy, and his debt to the company was discharged. The other defendant asserted that the complaint was barred by the statute of limitations. The company argued that the remaining defendant was equitably estopped from relying on the statute of limitations because he had misled the company to delay filing suit by promising to pay the debt without the need for litigation. The trial court agreed with the company and ruled that the statute of limitations did not bar the company’s claim. We affirm the trial court’s judgment on appeal. 

Davidson County Court of Appeals 12/18/18
State Ex Rel Herbert H. Slatery III, ET Al. v. Chevron Corporation, Et Al.
M2018-00789-COA-R3-CV

The Tennessee Attorney General issued several civil investigative demands (“CIDs”) to several oil companies as part of an investigation into false claims and violations of the Tennessee Petroleum Underground Storage Tank Act, Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 68-215-101--204. Compliance was incomplete, but the Attorney General filed suit in 2015 in circuit court. Portions of the suit were dismissed, and the Attorney General took a nonsuit. The Attorney General then filed suit in the chancery court to enforce the CIDs. The oil companies sought a protective order, which the court granted. The Attorney General appealed. We reverse.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 12/18/18
Lisa A. Boyd v. BNSF Railway Company
W2017-02189-COA-R3-CV

This is an FELA case arising out of an accident that occurred at the railroad’s intermodal facility in which a railroad employee was crushed by a container box being lifted off of a holster truck. The jury entered a verdict in favor of the employee, determining she was zero percent at fault for the accident, despite allegations that she had failed to set the holster truck brakes. The railroad moved for a new trial, raising several evidentiary issues and asserting that the jury’s failure to find the employee contributorily negligent was against the clear weight of the evidence. The trial court denied the motion. We affirm the trial court’s order on jury verdict, as remitted.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 12/17/18
Andrew Galloway v. Nashid Madyun
W2017-01438-COA-R3-CV

This is a breach of contract case. The trial court entered judgment against Appellant for breach of contract, and Appellant appeals. Because there is no transcript or statement of the evidence, we cannot review the trial court’s holdings. Affirmed and remanded.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 12/17/18
Samantha Audrey Haak v. Christopher Rodney Haak
W2018-00048-COA-R3-CV

Mother appeals the trial court’s decision to change custody to Father. Here, the trial court’s findings of fact and the evidence in the record support the trial court’s determination that naming Father the primary residential parent of the children is in their best interests. As such, we affirm.

Hardin County Court of Appeals 12/17/18
State of Tennessee v. Matthew Edward Ford
E2018-00507-CCA-R3-CD

The defendant, Matthew Edward Ford, appeals the Blount County Circuit Court’s order revoking his probation and ordering him to serve the balance of his misdemeanor sentences in confinement. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Blount County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/17/18
Brian M. Haslett, Et Al. v. Barry Gregory, Et Al.
M2018-01952-COA-T10B-CV

The defendants moved to disqualify the chancellor after the denial of their motion for summary judgment. As grounds for disqualification, the defendants submitted that the chancellor had violated the Code of Judicial Conduct in denying their motion for summary judgment and in not promptly entering an order on a motion to compel. After the chancellor’s denial of the motion to disqualify, this accelerated interlocutory appeal followed. Because the motion identified no justifiable basis for the chancellor’s disqualification, we affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 12/17/18
Lawrence Benjamin Davenport v. Denise Michelle Davenport
W2017-01376-COA-R3-CV

In this divorce action, the mother appeals the trial court’s permanent parenting plan order, which designated the father as primary residential parent of the parties’ child and awarded him 280 days of annual residential co-parenting time. Having determined that the order appealed from does not adjudicate all of the claims between the parties and is therefore not a final order, we dismiss this appeal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 12/17/18
Raleigh Commons, Inc. v. SWH, LLC, et al.
W2017-01792-COA-R3-CV

This action, which involves payment of a promissory note, was previously appealed to this Court and subsequently remanded to the trial court due to the existence of a genuine issue of material fact precluding summary judgment. Following remand, the trial court conducted a hearing regarding the disputed issue of the reasonableness of attorney’s fees paid. Determining that the amount of fees paid was reasonable, the trial court entered judgment in favor of Dr. Joseph Weinstein, the note holder and the appellee herein. Dr. Stevan Himmelstein, one of the parties found to be liable on the note, has appealed. Discerning no error, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 12/14/18
In re: Rader Bonding Company
M2017-01687-CCA-R3-CD

In this appeal, we must determine whether the Appellant, Rader Bonding Company (“Rader”), remained obligated as surety for the $7,500 bond set for the Defendant, Saul Aldaba-Arriaga, for a charge of driving under the influence of an intoxicant (“DUI”), second offense, and his $2,500 bond for a charge of driving on a revoked license when the State later obtained an indictment that increased the severity of the Defendant’s misdemeanor charge of DUI second offense to a felony charge of DUI fourth offense and included additional charges. After the Defendant failed to appear in court on the indicted charges, the trial court initiated forfeiture proceedings and entered a final judgment of forfeiture against the Defendant and Rader following a hearing. We conclude that based on the specific and unique circumstances of this case, Rader’s obligation under the bonding agreement for the $7,500 bond on the Defendant’s DUI second offense charge in general sessions court did not extend to the indicted charge of DUI fourth offense and that as a result, the trial court erred in entering a judgment of final forfeiture against Rader on the $7,500 bond. We further conclude that Rader’s obligation for the $2,500 bond on the Defendant’s charge of driving on a revoked license in general sessions court continued when the Defendant was indicted for the same offense and that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying Rader’s request for exoneration. Accordingly, the trial court’s judgment is affirmed in part and reversed in part, and this case is remanded for further proceeding in accordance with this opinion.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/14/18
Nedra B. Drayton v. Jacquelyn B. Scruggs
W2017-00760-COA-R3-CV

This appeal arises from an Order of Protection initially issued in the General Sessions Court for Shelby County, Tennessee based on the plaintiff’s allegation that the defendant, her mother, assaulted her “by hitting her with her car.” In the appeal to the Circuit Court, that court ordered that all provisions in the order of protection in the General Sessions Court remain in effect until further order of the Circuit Court. Following numerous filings and motions, one of which sought a psychological mental health assessment of the plaintiff, the Circuit Court denied all pending motions and dismissed the order of protection. This appeal followed. Finding no error, we affirm.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 12/14/18
In re: Rader Bonding Company - dissenting
M2017-01687-CCA-R3-CD

I dissent from the majority’s holding that the trial court erred in denying Rader Bonding Company’s motion for exoneration and in denying the motion to alter or amend the judgment of forfeiture.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/14/18
Paul Brent Baxter v. State of Tennessee
M2017-01230-CCA-R3-PC

The petitioner, Paul Brent Baxter, appeals the denial of his post-conviction petition, arguing the post-conviction court erred in finding he received effective assistance of counsel at trial. Within the context of his post-conviction claims, the petitioner argues trial counsel was ineffective for failing to object to the State asking the victim to compare her pain level as a result of the petitioner’s assault to the pain she experienced at other points in her life. Following our review, we affirm the denial of the petition.

Marshall County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/14/18
In Re Estate of Bernice Hill
W2017-02131-COA-R3-CV

A claim was filed against an estate by the former employer of the decedent. The clerk of court did not send notice to the representative of the estate as required by Tennessee Code Annotated section 30-2-313(a). The estate did not file an exception to the claim until after the time for filing exceptions had run. The trial court accordingly ruled that the exception was time barred. The estate appeals. We reverse the judgment and remand for further proceedings.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 12/14/18
Jermaine Reese v. The Estate of Stanley Cutshaw, Et Al.
E2017-01923-COA-R3-CV

This appeal concerns a debt owed to the plaintiff by her deceased husband. The trial court awarded the plaintiff certain secured real property that she argues does not provide her the full value of her claim against the decedent. We affirm.

Greene County Court of Appeals 12/14/18
Jermaine Reese v. The Estate of Stanley Cutshaw, Et Al. - concurring
E2017-01923-COA-R3-CV

I concur in the majority’s discussion and decision regarding the inapplicability of the doctrine of exoneration. I am also of the opinion that if the statute of limitations had been timely raised as an affirmative defense, it would have barred Wife’s cause of action. However, I believe that our Fryer decision and Rules 8.03 and 12.08 of the Rules of Civil Procedure, mandate the conclusion that the trial court erred in ambushing Wife by applying an affirmative defense that was never pled nor tried. To the extent that the majority opinion could be read as holding that the trial court’s error was harmless because the statute of limitations had run, I disagree with that reasoning, because I believe it is circular in nature. The conclusion that the error was harmless can, however be supported by other reasoning of the majority. For example, I agree with the majority that the error was harmless, but I would support this conclusion simply on the trial court’s determination that the release executed by the parties was valid and enforceable and supports the conclusion that the property securing the debt should be deeded back to Wife. I write separately to emphasize my view that Fryer was correctly decided, that it is squarely on point and applicable to this case, and that this opinion should not be read as representing an exception to the general principle stated therein, namely that a trial court commits reversible error by sua sponte applying a statute of limitations defense at the end of trial that was never pled, raised by the parties, or tried by implied consent.

Greene County Court of Appeals 12/14/18
State of Tennessee v. William Ingram
W2017-02343-CCA-R3-CD

A Shelby County Criminal Court Jury convicted the Appellant, William Ingram, of aggravated assault, and the trial court sentenced him to six years in the Shelby County workhouse. On appeal, the Appellant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence sustaining his conviction. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/14/18
State of Tennessee v. Ricky Dee May
W2018-00224-CCA-R3-CD

The defendant, Ricky Dee May, pled guilty to the manufacture of marijuana and felony possession of drug paraphernalia and received an effective sentence of two years. On appeal, the defendant contends the trial court erred in imposing the maximum sentence for each offense. After our review, we affirm the trial court’s sentence pursuant to Rule 20 of the Rules of the Court of Criminal Appeals.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/14/18